• BSF - The James Review

    Last week Sebastion James, the group operations director at Dixons released an independant report on the Building Schools for the Future project and concluded that 30% of the money spent could have been saved.
    The first link is to the orgional report and the one's beneath are media reactions:

    http://media.education.gov.uk/assets...ril%202011.pdf

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13012596
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...cent-cash.html
    http://construction-manager.co.uk/ne...ing-published/
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-10682980
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. beeswax's Avatar
      beeswax -
      Wasn't part of the BSF remit, at least in the early days, to produce buildings of note, which would reflect well on the surrounding area (not the exact wording, I know)? I think it was becoming obvious by about Wave 5 that in order to save costs schools would be more limited in the designs they could choose.
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Yes, but at massive costs. A sensible idea would have been to centrally contract an architect and draw up plans for a modular school where there would be a choice of say 5 teaching block types, sports halls and other essential school rooms/buildings and then schools could pick or choose the designs they wanted. It would have kept design, material and building fees to a minimum that way whilst still giving schools a good choice of features and design. Many BSF designs I saw were very ambitious, extremley expensive, and definately not in keeping with the surrounding area!
    1. Gibbo's Avatar
      Gibbo -
      Many BSF schools are now struggling with operational costs. This is a good example:

      Business Academy Bexley may be forced to cut staff over £500,000 deficit | News

      One of the Government's flagship academies is facing staff cuts after running up a £500,000 deficit.

      The Business Academy Bexley has spent almost £300,000 fixing leaks, flaking steelwork and broken boilers in the £31 million Norman Foster-designed building.
    1. beeswax's Avatar
      beeswax -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
      Yes, but at massive costs. A sensible idea would have been to centrally contract an architect and draw up plans for a modular school where there would be a choice of say 5 teaching block types, sports halls and other essential school rooms/buildings and then schools could pick or choose the designs they wanted. It would have kept design, material and building fees to a minimum that way whilst still giving schools a good choice of features and design. Many BSF designs I saw were very ambitious, extremley expensive, and definately not in keeping with the surrounding area!
      I can't disagree with that summary, and it made sense to follow this principle even in the first wave. Solutions to problems uncovered with the first new builds could then be incorporated into subsequent plans. It may be that I felt the report was stating the obvious when it said that made-to-measure designs were prohibitivley expensive and over budget, and the modular approach, in hindsight, was the cheaper option. The initial
      brief was for 'statement' architecture. Perhaps the obvious needed stating in the report.
      Not having seen too many new builds, I don't feel able to comment on their harmony with the surrounding area.
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gibbo View Post
      Many BSF schools are now struggling with operational costs. This is a good example:

      Business Academy Bexley may be forced to cut staff over £500,000 deficit | News
      Academies are different to BSF schools are they not? Different funding model IIRC.

      Edited to add that the Business Academy Bexley was opened in 2003, way before BSF started rolling, and it's reported problems are nothing to do with BSF.
    1. DrCheese's Avatar
      DrCheese -
      He recommended that new buildings should be based on a set of "standardised drawings"
      Finally someone with sense. It was such an hilarious waste of money to hire in different architects for every school, most who seemed to care about the "art" of it than the actual purpose. Not saying every school should look the same but I really doubt someone in York would care if their school looked like a school down in portsmouth.
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      Quote Originally Posted by DrCheese View Post
      Finally someone with sense. It was such an hilarious waste of money to hire in different architects for every school, most who seemed to care about the "art" of it than the actual purpose. Not saying every school should look the same but I really doubt someone in York would care if their school looked like a school down in portsmouth.
      Could you image installing a Schools sharepoint\moodle\joomla template then having to select your school building from the 1 of 5 images of the original designs.
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      The report is quite comprehensive in the breakdown of problems, but has to summarise some of them and it means some of the detail is missed.

      Although ICT is mentioned in a number of areas a common theme that is expressed is that all capital investment needs maintenance and to be refreshed when appropriate. This is expected to be done, in principal, via revenue budgets for smaller amounts and DFC for larger amounts to a certain level. This means that the school should be able to quantify, if asked, how much it expects to have to pay each year for maintenance or refresh of the ICT infrastructure and facilities. It is hard to pin down whether software or 'changeable' assets could be included in here ... that could be a good discussion over a pint some time in the future.

      Here are a couple of key things for you though ... (mainly centred around part 2, but in particular 4.23 to 4.29)

      The report talks about how local choice around building design (and this also means IT infrastructure) has often been a hold up, has meant that value for money hasn't been achieved, that what was requested to be delivered by the leading person (eg the head) could be wasted as that person could have moved on by the time it is delivered.

      The report also recommends that RBCs still exist, that they are changed to a more 'price book' style service where you only pay for what you want / need, 10Mpbs for primary schools and 100Mbps for secondary schools, that there should be more use and development of the existing public sector networks to make use of the existing investment as a way of delivering lots of services (including things such as BDUK). It also suggests that being a small school does not mean you use less bandwidth. in fact you might use more as you make more use of online resources to support the lack of specialisms/expertise within the school, and making more use of hosted solutions / services.

      The ICT Services Framework should play a large part in any procurement, as should other large scale purchasing arrangements. Putting it bluntly, this means that for every chunk of kit you buy then you must check it against the same costs from BuyingSolutions. The only way the system will work is if people make use of it, and if they find they don't get the best price from BuyingSolutions then they feed that back.

      Other recommendations can also be seen that there should be central advice and procurement, and when that comes to the ICT section of new / rebuilt / refurbished schools, this should be for infrastructure only. It does not say what it considers to be infrastructure though...

      So ... Managed services should not be a pre-requisite of any new building scheme, that the choice of desktop / systems should be down to the school, that there should be a plan to maintain IT infrastructure / assets and refresh it. On the flip side, the ICT services framework (which includes managed services) should be a serious option for all schools when they are considering how to spend their capital investment and how to maintain it. There is nothing wrong with schools have the same basic setup and then fine-tuning ... having one person defining a vision or system is a risk ...

      One thing is clear though, there is a push to have more of a centralised role from a body. that can be DoE, it could be PfS ... but the DoE has now taken on board the remnants of Becta. It has the infrastructure team and the safeguarding team, amongst others. The thing we don't have yet is how the DoE is going to deliver their chunk of the Govt's IT Strategy. This report *will* contribute to that.
    1. jayemm's Avatar
      jayemm -
      I used to work in a PFI school, built using PFI money the LA took out, before Tony Blair and BSF. The authority built or refurbished just under 20 at the same time and put in place a management company who had to maintain the buildings for a set period before they reverted back to LA control. The buildings were leased to a joint venture company for the period, they awarded the contract for building management which included catering, caretaking, facilities management etc, this was a bit similar to a LEP. This 'LEP' had board members from the LA and from the company who provided the capital investment. The building management company was a subsidiary of the group of companies that invested the money. The company that won the contract to build the school was also part of the same group!

      All in all we ended up with a steel frame building with thermalite walls and brick exterior. The LA liked it as the costs were fixed and written into a contract, schools were not so keen as site staff were employed by a third party.

      Pros:
      costs were tried to be kept at a minimum, the buildings all had the same 'feel' but didnt look the same at all.
      yearly energy costs were fixed, well they rose with inflation, irrespective the actual amount of energy used, eg the 1500 pupil school I worked at paid £17500 per year for gas and electricity even if we left computers on 24x7.
      If something goes wrong with the building they have to fix it no cost to school, only exception is vandalism

      Cons:
      any work has a 10% fee to cover management costs and lifecycle
      no way to prove best value as all changes to building and infrastructure are handled by management company

      This idea of building modular schools is surely not a new one, in my LA there are several schools built at the same time in the 60s. They were square modules a bit like more permanent port-a-cabins with flat roofs brick bases and wooden sides. I have seen these modular buildings up and down the country but never seen two identical schools. I think the idea of having a catalogue of modules to choose from is a good idea, but with the option of changing some parts at a cost? This allows for standardisation, but to keep some individuality.

      The school where I now work was due to be rebuilt under BSF and already had plans drawn up, our phase was canceled. The school is in desperate need of rebuilding with no hope of that in the short to mid term now. The LA has allocated Capital Investment for refurb in a couple of years but the amount, although substantial, is not what it needs to be.

      The whole point of BSF was to build innovative, fit for purpuse, modern buildings which were designed from the offset with education in mind. Where learning spaces were built that allowed students to learn differently. The problem as always with large contracts is that project management, something the government should know lots about having created PRINCE(2), yet all government projects go over budget and or over time. We firstly need to ensure that we employ good project managers who in turn should seek the best value for the project as a whole?
    1. m25man's Avatar
      m25man -
      Nothing to do with BSF but I recently got asked to look over some plans for a new school extension.

      The plans were complete and approved.

      3 compartment trunking to be installed in the main hall only along with a projection screen.

      Not a single piece of data cable to seen anywhere, no high level power, no room for data cabinets and not a mention of how the services would be brought in from next door!

      An emergency meeting was called where I addressed the governors and architects.

      Asking for a fibre duct from next door, 30+ Data Outlets, Projector and electric screen, Power outlets, Data Cabinet, Wifi etc...

      It was as though I had just spouted a stream of obscenities and personal insults!
      How dare I question the judgement and integrity of the Architects and Builders..... What do I know about building a modern school......

      A week later I have a revised set of plans and a request for a Bill of Materials from the builders!
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      @jayemm whilst the Govt had done a good thing with the creation of PRINCE2, not all people involved in Govt projects understand it. You will often find the presumption that the Project manager needs to know about it, some of the team leaders need to as well, but the project sponsor / exec/ supporter / customer, the Senior user and Senior Supplier sometimes don't ... or if they do then they are happy to introduce project creep / scope creep and dump it on the Project manager to sort out.

      The other problem is that political and operational decisions are frequently made which can screw over 6 months worth of work ... in one day!

      The only reason I got into project management was to make sure I didn't make any mistakes as the Customer or Senior User, so I could spot a Project manager who was blagging and so I could do the QA.
    1. nicholab's Avatar
      nicholab -
      They should have use prefabricated building as these are much cheaper and weather does not get in the way as they are build in a factory.
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      One of the problems is that although some folk strongly believe that you can teach anywhere (which you can when you have good teachers) there is also really strong evidence that the environment can make a massive difference too. The chosen range of designs needs to be based around what is educationally suitable ... not just what is cheapest to throw together.
    1. jayemm's Avatar
      jayemm -
      @GrumbleDook yes I do tend to agree. But are we talking about evidence between a 60/70 year old school with single glazing and leaky roofs to a nice new shiny building in pastel colours but which basically just provides the same square rooms for people to use. Or are we talking about comparing newly built schools which are modeled on the old ones to the blue sky thinking of creative open learning spaces, outdoor classrooms and thinking beyond the 'box'?
    1. SimpleSi's Avatar
      SimpleSi -
      there is also really strong evidence that the environment can make a massive difference too.
      Hear hear

      Si
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      Quote Originally Posted by jayemm View Post
      @GrumbleDook yes I do tend to agree. But are we talking about evidence between a 60/70 year old school with single glazing and leaky roofs to a nice new shiny building in pastel colours but which basically just provides the same square rooms for people to use. Or are we talking about comparing newly built schools which are modeled on the old ones to the blue sky thinking of creative open learning spaces, outdoor classrooms and thinking beyond the 'box'?
      The review criticises the use of the phrase "educational transformation". This is because it was explained to too few people, and people got bogged down by buildings and kit rather than saying "how do we change what actually goes on in the school (where needed) and what do we need to do with the building and kit to get there?"

      A building that is falling down is no good to anyone, but why spend money fixing it by just replicating was was there beforehand ... especially when what was there beforehand might have actually been contributing to thongs not working the way they should. The equivalent would be to forget to build a server room with not enough power, have the building with no ceiling void or cable trays, to put network cabs in the classroom and then power them via a normal lead which is plugged in to a wall socket nest to where the pupils sit.

      Narrow corridors, lack of light, no canteen/restaurant/cookhouse, inflexible rooms which are too small or force pupils to sit in rows ... having these in a building which does not leak is better than one that is falling apart ... but to fail to take the chance to get rid of problems is plain stupid. When this happens with infrastructure, etc we are up in arms ... when stupid designs stop things from being done easily or flexible. It is not about just using pastel colours (but there is also a large chunk of research from psychologists and educationalists about how the use of different colours can impact on how people work or learn ... so you might want to think about the colours on your desktop background), but using the chance to fix things that we *know* are problems in schools.
    1. Gibbo's Avatar
      Gibbo -
      "open learning spaces" are just a disaster waiting to happen. I've personally seen these spaces in use and seen one child kick off which has caused everyone to stop and watch the drama unfold. This doesn't happen in a single contained classroom.

      And in other open spaces with elevated walkways (like in a shopping mall) I've seen kids throw stuff (bags, coats, litter) over the side and even witnessed students leering down at female sixth former's cleavages.

      Not to mention the cost of heating and cooling these spaces. Cathedrals of glass look very pretty, but cost a fortune to maintain.
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      The risk of a student kicking off in an open learning area is not a problem. Some schools I have visited know have students who will just ignore the recalcitrant child, because they are more interested in just getting on with stuff ... The whole thing with the 'education transformation' label was to get school to work out how to change things about their school for the better.

      If your school is likely to have problems with things like open learning areas you have two choices. You either don't go with them and accept that it could limit certain things, but it will help prevent distractions .... or you work on you behaviour policy / practices to deal with it instead, but accept it could be hard work / long term.
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